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2007 Jaguar XK Review

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PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Road impressions: the new Jaguar XK
By Andrew Frankl European Bureau Chief

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Jaguar

Driving the latest 300 horsepower Jaguar XK in Baja, Mexico was no picnic. Before you say “oh, poor man, tough job but someone has to do it” how would you like to drive someone else’s 75 thousand dollar brand new sports coupe at relatively high speeds while avoiding 5 cows and 15 goats?! No, not in a week, not in a year but within a few hours? Add to that one rabid dog which very nearly jumped into our convertible and you get the picture. From all this you’ll gather two things. Firstly that I live to tell the tale and secondly that the Jag’s brakes and steering are pretty amazing. Have you ever had occasion to swerve round a big black cow on a narrow, two-way road with a massive Freightliner rapidly approaching from the other direction? Trust me, boring it isn’t.

It is an open secret that Jaguar desperately need a success. The X type didn’t fulfill expectations and the S class is selling all right, rather than brilliantly. There is a brand new replacement on the horizon but not in the near future.

The XK is not just a new car, it is also an image builder. You may have seen the controversial “gorgeous” campaign featuring some beautiful girls with a few macho men thrown in for good measure. Shot in a French chateau and on a beach just outside Saint Tropez it features people in situations one would normally associate with Ferraris or Lambos. A brave move for a car costing one third of the 430. Love it or hate it, you will certainly remember it. The company is desperately and understandably trying to get away from the brand’s “old man’s car image”.

If anything will do it, it is the XK. First of all it does look great, particularly in British Racing Green.

It is also a very easy car to drive. There is no fiddling for knobs or buttons a la BMW 7 series, you just jump in, press the red start button , pop it into “D” and you are off. There are some perfectly placed paddles under the steering wheel for those-like me- who like to drive as opposed to just get from A to B. These work magnificently, certainly as well as in the Ferrari 430.

The only disappointment in that respect was that when you floored the throttle the 300 horses were adequate rather than outstanding.

Relief, however, is at hand as the 420 horsepower version will be unveiled at the LA show in late November.

If Jaguar can keep the price down to around 90 thousand dollars then it will be a very attractive proposition indeed.

Don’t get me wrong, a 300 horsepower sports car/GT is fine for most people but if Jaguar really wants to reach the “gorgeous” people featured in the commercials they will expect 420. After all the company is presumably after what are known in the trade as conquest sales, in other words persuading people to give up their BMWs, Porsches and Mercedes 500SL-s. No easy task as I am sure Jaguar will be the first to admit.

On the other hand while many people are suffering as a result of the 3 dollar plus gas (mind you, they would faint if they had to pay UK prices!) there is an awful lot of money around in oil and hedge fund circles. With the sort of bonuses certain companies have been dishing out some of these “gorgeous” wannabes might buy the XK as an addition to their fleet.

Reminds me of the Lambo salesman whom I met at a reception. We talked about the Gallardo and I rather naively asked what people were trading in to buy one. He gave me a funny look and said: “Sir, people who buy a Gallardo don’t trade in anything, they simply add it to their fleet.”

With that he rapidly moved on realizing that he was talking to an idiot.

Prices are certainly competitive with the afore mentioned opposition. One car Jaguar also mentions as a rival is Toyota’ s desperately boring SC430 which I would not even consider as it is probably the least “gorgeous” car I’ve ever seen for nearly 70 thousand dollars.

As for the rest, well, Jaguar XK and BMW 650i convertibles are identical in price, the Merc SL is pushing 95 thousand but it has a truly fanatical following, especially in Orange County and in Rancho Santa Fe where it was hard to find a car which is not a Mercedes.

The XK certainly has an awful lot of standard features which are very 21st century, such as Bluetooth, multi CD on the dash (and not in the trunk), superb paddle shifts, reverse park control and so on. Owing to the aluminum body structure the consumption is very impressive indeed at a combined (city/highway) 24 miles per gallon.

Dislikes-not many and certainly none that would stop me from buying the car. The hazard warning light is in the right place but the sign is tiny and hard to see in the sunshine. You would of course know it second time round but it is the first time that might be critical if you have to hit it in a hurry. Veteran (33 years with the company) Chief Program Engineer Russ Varney agreed that it would have been nice to have a grab handle for the passenger but there simply wasn’t enough room.

I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit to a certain affinity towards Jaguar. The boys from Browns Lane have been close friends over the years. Back in 1969 I was part of the team which gave Jaguar their first Car of the Year award for the XJ. Company founder Sir William Lyons was on hand to receive it. This was in the days when the award still meant something and wasn’t given out by all and sundry to please the ad manager and the greedy bosses.

I also have to thank Ford Motor Company for saving Jaguar. It was in a huge mess courtesy of Britain’s appalling Labour government of the day and the monumental incompetence of Lord Stokes, the true purveyor of darkness for what was once a great British Motor industry.

Under British Leyland-the holding company- the girls on the switch board at Browns Lane were not allowed to say “Jaguar”, they had to say “Second Large Car Plant”! The mind boggles at the idiotic mentalities involved in such decisions.

Anyway, Ford turned up, saved the day and have poured in hundreds of millions of dollars. If all future Jaguars turn out to be as good as the XK then after all these years Ford’s investment will ultimately pay dividends. They certainly deserve it as do the hard-working boys and girls back in the UK.